Announcement and Another Book Review

La Jicarita editor Kay Matthews and Quivira Coalition co-founder Courtney White will be on KSFR’s Living on the Edge radio program on Thursday, April 14 (4:00 pm). Kay’s new book, Counter Culture: Environmental Politics in New Mexico Forest Communities, describes the tumultuous years in the 1990s when La Jicarita and Quivira were trying to bring together the ranchers, farmers, foresters, federal bureaucrats, and environmentalists of New Mexico to protect resources and livelihoods. Kay and Courtney will talk about those years but also about how these relationships are faring today, particularly in light of the recent confrontation at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon between the Bureau of Land Management, local farmers and ranchers, Wise Use advocates, and the right wing militia.

Courntey’s new book, Two Percent Solutions for the Planet: 50 Low-Cost, Low-Tech, Nature-Based Practices for Combatting Hunger, Drought, and Climate Change was released in October of 2015. The “two percent” refers to: the amount of new carbon in the soil needed to reap a wide variety of ecological and economic benefits; the percentage of the nation’s population who are farmers and ranchers; and the low financial cost (in terms of GDP) needed to get this work done. It’s available at Chelsea Green Publishing and local bookstores. He also published The Age of Consequences: A Chronicle of Concern and Hope in January of 2015.


La Jicarita colleague Malcolm Ebright, historian and director of the Center for Land Grant Studies, sent along the following book review.

Culture Clash: Environmental Politics in New Mexico Forest Communities, A Memoir, 1970-2000 by Kay Matthews. 217 pp., photos, endnotes.


Kay Matthews has a knack for distilling complicated land and water struggles down to their essential elements without losing important details needed for the story. In her new book, Culture Clash: Environmental Politics in New Mexico Forest Communities, A Memoir, 1970-2000, she weaves the story of her life in New Mexico together with the land grant, water rights, and land use struggles she and her partner Mark Schiller fought during that period. Her journey from the early days in Placitas, then a pleasant rural community outside of Albuquerque, to El Valle near Las Trampas, and Chamisal, is marked by raising a family, finishing a house, and becoming part of a community, as she engages in these political and legal struggles.

The book is more than a memoir. It chronicles important land grant and water-rights struggles, dealing with Sandia Pueblo, Picuris Pueblo, the communities of Placitas and El Valle on the Las Trampas grant, among others. In lucid prose, Kay Matthews also pinpoints the books and articles that discuss these issues which are still with us today. As she notes in a well-chosen Wendell Berry quote, “you cannot save the land apart from the people or the people apart from the land. To save either you must save both.”

Kay Matthews is still writing her online newsletter, La Jicarita, which distills the legalities of today’s water rights struggles better than most lawyers. She still lives in the beautiful valley of El Valle, growing her own food. Looking back at the battles won and lost, mostly lost, she has not lost. She has gained, and we are the beneficiaries. As we relive these struggles alongside her, we hope she continues to write, as she lives and fights for, the maintenance of our northern New Mexico communities. Those communities are struggling but they are alive and well. We will be out there cleaning our acequias soon, and we will see not only old men and women, but also young men and women, kids and grandkids, even newcomers, getting the ditches ready for another year.

As Leonard Cohen wrote: “the news is bad, but you’ve got me singing.”


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